A Happy Garden

Warning: lots of pictures in the post! 

My garden is beautiful. Thanks to my awesome friends at my “Help Jenny With Her Garden” party, my garden is simply flourishing out in the front yard. I had a beautiful, bountiful harvest all during fall and winter, and I’m sad I didn’t document it very well. Here are the few shots I did happen to get on my iPhone:

Beautiful tomatoes all winter long
Baby carrots
Peas in a pod
Zucchini in December
Luffa gourds to luffa sponges

Now it’s spring and I’m waiting to harvest the last round of winter planting:

Oregon Sugar Pod Peas
Little broccoli offshoots
Red Creole Onions
Chard
More carrots :)
Cherry Tomatoes

New spring arrivals:

Tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings
Rattlesnake bean blossoms
Sweet peas
Green-striped Cushaw squash seeds

New friends (due to an aphid problem):

How many ladybugs can you spot? (pun intended)

And lastly, flowers from the back porch that were just too beautiful to ignore:

Nasturtiums
Midnight-Velvet petunias
Sunflowers amidst weeds in my old garden area

I love my garden.

Project of the Week

Actually, make that “Project of the Past Two Weeks”.

Tada! In case you’re wondering what it is, it’s a combo trellis for my garden (cucumbers and squash, specifically) and shade for our front door/window, which get quite toasty in the summer. I got the idea from here. Phil’s sister sent me that link last year and I found it tucked away in my “Projects” folder in Evernote. See, you just never know when you’re going to come back to something.

I started building the frame last Monday when Phil was out of town. Now while I enjoyed the freedom to do it completely MY way and not his super logical way, I did have to go back and undo things quite a few times. My biggest mistake, probably, was building half the frame indoors. Maybe.

At the time it made total sense to me. It kept me in the nice cool house. It was a bit warm outside, and I was being sun-cancer conscious and staying out of the harmful UV rays. But then I need to move it outside. All by myself. A big 7 foot by 8 foot frame. And no, I did not break anything. That was Phil’s first question when I told him my process.

Then I had to add on the other half. Many other “Oh crap, I should’ve done it that way” moments came to me during the rest of this. But I will save those for a conversation over wine.

Next step was painting a color that matched the house. It didn’t really turn out looking any different than the original wood color, but it does give a little bit more finished look to it. Then the rain/snow came last weekend and halted my progress. But Friday was beautiful outside so both Phil and I went to staple down the metal fencing wire mesh stuff. This was the whole point of this entire project – a trellis for my garden. The cucumbers and squash I plant are vining varieties and so will eventually climb and provide shade. Phil had the great idea of adding the shade cloth though. So back to Home Depot I went to get shade cloth. Then back another time to get those special fasteners for shade cloth that I thought I should get but decided I didn’t need them because we had a staple gun. (I was wrong, btw). And then back a 3rd time to get another pack because, again, I ignored that little voice of logic in my head that said, “Hmmm, maybe you should get two just in case”. Damn logic gets me every time.

Side note: We both, even in all Phil’s logical glory and super translucent skin, forgot to put on sunscreen. We totally fried. Now you see how genius it was of me to build the thing indoors.

Anyway, many more hours ensued between putting the entire thing into the ground, attaching the cloth, deciding to attach it up to the roof, perfecting it, etcetera, etcetera. Phil is still not done perfecting it, but I’m happy. I’m loving the shaded front porch and added privacy!

And here is a teaser for a very overdue garden post:

Red Creole Onions

New Garden Location = Success!

The garden in the front yard is flourishing! I finally feel like a real gardener! Everything I planted is growing. I’m thinning plants. Already there are baby cucumbers. There is a nice butternut squash growing. I already harvested radishes. There are little and big sprouts of things everywhere!

Although, there is one problem in paradise. One side of my garden is not growing as well as the other. I know it’s not the sun or water, so it’s got to be the soil. My thoughts are either too much compost or not enough. Something ain’t right. So my first solution will be to get some good organic miracle grow soil and put it down. I’m not complaining, though!

So here are some pics of my first harvest. I had to thin out some of the greens, and the radishes were peeking their little tops above the soil, saying “pick me, pick me!”. So I did.

baby Red Russian kale and Cherry Bell radishes

 

baby kale, radishes, and TONS of baby bok choy!

See the basket of greens to the left in the pic above? That’s all bok choy.

Can’t wait to try out this recipe for Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup. And this Kale and Parmesan Frittata. Now to find recipes for bok choy!

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 10

Baby watermelon, along with baby bell peppers, are the cutest thing in the world! This is a Sugar Baby Watermelon. I’m so excited for these! Watermelon is my favorite fruit (and for those that know me, there is a very limited selection of fruit I like). This will only grow to about 8″, which I prefer. I can trellis it since the melons don’t get very heavy. It will also turn almost black when it’s ripe. I’m so excited! Oh, I said that already.

There is also another baby growing.

So tiny and fuzzy!

Last year I planted these, but they were shaded out by my over abundance of sunflowers. These guys want lots and lots of sun, and lots and lots of water. So this year I made sure to plant them in a mostly sunny area. I could’ve planted them somewhere sunnier, but it’s hard to judge the sunniest spots for the summer 3 months ahead of time. I planted these in March or April, and they take 85 days to maturity. That puts them about on schedule, maybe a little delayed due to the cool spring. They like the soil 80 degrees or above. So for these…bountiful!

 

Update: 8-13-11

After wondering why my melons were not growing and were a bit squishy to the squeeze, I learned that they were not pollinated. Sad day!!! No new babies since these either. Very sad day!

 

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 9

Beans! Specifically, different varieties of green beans. I ain’t shellin’ no beans yet. The baby ones pictured are Romano Flat Italian Bush Beans. They are pretty much self explanatory. The other two types are Kentucky Blue Wonder Beans and Rattlesnake Beans. I’m most exited for the Rattlesnakes, because they are so unique looking!

I planted the beans in March. Beans sprout insanely fast. The problem with beans is the heat here. As soon as it heats up, they stop producing. So I started getting a few Romanos in May, but not many. I felt like I should’ve gotten a nice crop because the spring was so cool. I have yet to get any Kentuckys or Rattlesnakes. However, I didn’t plant the ‘Snakes until end of May. The Romanos are currently producing again, although those babies aren’t growing very fast. The Kentucky is flowering, but no sign of beans yet. The Rattlesnake started flowering last week, and the flowers are purple!

So pretty. I think these ones will do the best because they are getting shade right now, thanks to the neighbors shrub growing over our wall. They are also intertwining with the peppers and lemon cucumber, and those are all having a happy companionship right now.  Last year I planted regular ol’ green beans, and had the same problem. They grew and grew and grew, and didn’t produce until fall, and then I had lots. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but next year I will maybe try starting a few indoors in February. So with these my analysis is… Meh, neither. I’m not overly pleased with them, but I’m not mad at them either. The vine ones take up only vertical space. If I had known the bush beans were going to grow so slow, I maybe would’ve planted them in a different spot and planted less. I’m just neutral on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 8

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “How much more can she have in her garden?!”.  Well, I’m close to the end, but still not done :)

Pretty, don’t you think? I love the different shades of green, and the shape of the leaves, and the way the yellow pops out at you. But I am no longer enamored with it’s beauty. <insert grumpy face>

This is what I have been staring at, day after day, for 3 months. Watering it, watching it flower, staking it to climb, digging through the jumble, hoping to find a treasure. Day after day, I was disappointed. What is it? Tatume squash. Or at least the vine of one. Yes, there are blossoms, but those are only the males, which are not where the squash come from (the birds and the bees, people). The thing I was most looking forward to in my garden this summer was squash. I planted four types: Tatume, Butternut, Spaghetti and Cocozelle.  The Butternut died young. I have no idea why. The Spaghetti were growing, then looked sickly, now are growing again, and have a few blossoms. The Cocozelle, like the Tatume, have been showing off their handsome males, but no ladies.

I was supposed to have squash in June. Squash grow very quickly and take only a month and a half-ish to start producing. I first attributed it to the unusually cool spring. Squash love the soil toasty warm. But then it really toasted up. They grew more, flowered more males, but not a squash in site. Until…

Finally! An unexpected treasure. I was simply watering one day, and there it was nestled in my herbs (I’m letting the vine crawl over them right now). This is what a Tatume looks like. I didn’t know until this one came along. It looks like a melon, doesn’t it? I picked it this morning. I read they taste best when about the size of a baseball, although they can get as big as a soccer ball! So, finally, a squash to eat. One lonely squash. Although, I swear I saw another baby one in there somewhere, but can’t seem to find it now. They like to hide from you and then, BAM, there they are staring at you, ready to be picked. I take this as a hopeful sign that more are on their way. Finally. I’m going to use it tonight in this grilled chicken and ratatouille recipe.

As excited as I am to finally get a squash, this is a bountifail.  The most bountifail-est in the garden. Squash are one of the easiest things to grow, love the heat, and produce until you are sick of them. I have yet to receive this fortune, and I’m really quite sure I didn’t do anything wrong. I will do another round of planting soon, in hopes of a better fall crop.

Update (7-21-11) The male and female blossoms have been *ahem* quite busy. There are little babies popping up everywhere!

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 7

My first cucumber! I planted Armenian cucumbers, Lemon cucumbers, and (mini) Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers. I picked the Armenian very young, about 6″, to stimulate more production. They can get as long as 3 feet! (!!!!!) It was very tasty. They say they are tastiest at 1 foot, and you don’t have to peel the skin because it is so thin. I have more babies growing:

Sigh. How fast they grow up.

The Lemon cucs have not made their grand entrance yet. There are flowering males though, so the females are sure to follow soon. I can’t wait! I was first introduced to the specimen at the farmers market last year. They do not look like cucumbers at all lol. More like a giant lemon. But again, very tasty! I am very antsy for them to show up.

And now the baby (mini) Mexican Sour Gherkins. You are not going to believe this…

When I said mini, I meant it. These will grow 1-2 inches in diameter. They taste just as they sound. Like a (pleasantly) sour cucumber. My sis-in-law grew them last year, and gave me some seeds this year. They look like baby watermelons when they are mature. So fun!

So, the analysis… The Armenians are a little late to show up, in my opinion. I planted them in March or April, and they should take 60-70 days to maturation. So, a little late, but not so much that I’m going to complain. They are a climbing vine, so they take only vertical space. The Lemon I planted later… I think in May or June. So they are right on schedule. They are also climbing vines, and are partnering up wonderfully with some Rattlesnake Beans (more on those in another post), which need some shade this time of year. The Gherkins I also planted later, and my sis-in-law warned me that they take a long time to produce. But actually they produced in 60-70 days, which is right on schedule. So my cucumbers are definitely worth the time and space, aka bountiful. And that makes me happy because they are one of my favorite veggies!

 

Update 7-24-11:

The Armenians are really taking off! It’s really hard to not pick them now!

About halfway to pickin’ time!

This one is funny! Short and fat.

 

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 6

O

Okra. Burgundy okra (pictured above), Dwarf Green okra, and Cowhorn okra.  My favorite is the burgundy. They are just so pretty.  They stay that color until you cook them, and then they turn green. If you were going to plant a second vegetable plant, I’d tell you okra.  This stuff grows extremely well in the summer.  I only planted my okra mid June, and it’s producing already! However, they only produce a few at a time. Last year I didn’t know what to do with just 3 okra at a time.  But I learned (again), the freezer is my friend!  I just pick them and pop them into the designated okra bag in the freezer until I have enough to do something.  My plans last year was to pickle them. We LUV pickled okra.  But I never got around to it.  So maybe this year.

Okra = always bountiful

 

 

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 5

 

I need to preface by saying that yes, the fact that anything is growing at all is a success.  However, through my tye dye colored lenses, I’m evaluating the time invested and the spaced used (which is very limited).  That is all.

 

 

Eggplants. These ones are Japanese Eggplants, which are smaller and skinnier. I prefer these over regular ones. I have one of those, too (referred to as Black Beauty). Japanese Eggplants do remarkably well here. If you were going to plant one vegetable, and you loved eggplants, this would be the one. Last year I had one that produced non stop from June til October. Phil was quite sick of eggplant, and he’s not even crazy about it to begin with. The fun thing about these is that as soon as you see a flower you know an eggplant will follow. No cross pollination needed. This one, however, isn’t producing hardly at all. Last year’s I bought from Lowe’s instead of starting from seed like this year. Again, slow to produce. I’ve had only 4 from this plant, and none from the Black Beauty. I’m disappointed because this year I was prepared with lots of recipes to use for my expected over-abundance.  Sigh. Another bountifail.

Update: (7-21-11) A Black Beauty has been spotted. I repeat, a Black Beauty has been spotted!

 

 

Bountiful and Bountifail (Garden) Part 4

Sunflowers! Can’t go wrong with these. You could not water them, and they would still grow. Last year I planted waaay too many. And while that was beautiful, they shaded out many plants and kept them from producing. I strategically companion planted them this year with my beans to give them some shade for the hot months. Then I planted tons around the yard and just left them there for the monsoons to water. The fun thing is I’m using seeds from last year’s flowers. The ones pictured are more golden than last years, and the shading on the pedals is different too. I think they are a hybrid between last year’s Lemon Queen and Mexican Red Torch. Also, many sunflowers popped up on their own from natural re-seeding last year. Fun!

I’m also getting some that are growing multiple, small ones on a stalk, which is characteristic of Lemon Queen.

Obviously, this is, and always will be, a bountiful part of my garden.

 

Update 8-13-11:

A new hybrid!

 

 

I have no idea why this uploaded sideways. And I can’t fix it. Phil – HELP!

This was planted from the seeds saved from last year’s Mammoth Grey Striped Sunflower. It is supposed to be one 8 ft tall stalk with one huge flower on top. This is one HUGE stalk with multiple flowers! It is a cross between the Lemon Queen and the Mammoth. What a fun surprise! And I have a million more seeds to use!